Tunnel vision push
A local activist is seizing on sizzling downtown development as an opportunity to combine his dreams of restoring trolley service and reopening a historic tunnel.
Bob Diamond, president of the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, discovered the long-abandoned Atlantic Ave. tunnel in 1980, and has been working to get trains running through it ever since.
The tunnel was last used in 1861, he said. But with development in downtown and the progress on Brooklyn Bridge Park, he thinks new modes of transportation just might be needed.
“The time now would be ripe to have a streetcar system,” he said. “What we’d like to see happen with the tunnel is to try to put it back to its original use.”
He proposes to run a trolley through the tunnel under Atlantic Ave. from the waterfront to its currently paved-over opening at Boerum Place.
The trolley could then run in a circular track on Boerum Place and Smith St. to downtown subway stops, he said.
Diamond faced heartbreaking failure in his previous efforts to run trolleys to Red Hook. The city ultimately paved over tracks he’d laid.
“Here I am again trying to get the thing jump-started,” he said.
Some use, he’s convinced, should be found for the substantial engineering project built in 1844 by the LIRR.
The arched ceiling, made of eight million bricks, and the stone walls are so sturdy they could support six times the weight now shouldered from Atlantic Ave., Diamond said.
“It’s like the Brooklyn Bridge. It was overbuilt,” Diamond said.
“You notice you don’t hear anything coming from the surface,” he added on a tour yesterday.
Diamond’s proposal hasn’t had any noticeable impact yet.
The transportation consultants who are working on a plan for Brooklyn Bridge Park were not directed to study the option of trolleys, said Jee Mee Kim of the firm Sam Schwartz LLC.
Hank Gutman, chairman of the Downtown Brooklyn Local Development Corp., said shuttle buses have proved successful in their test runs.
“Which other means of transportation will prove feasible and desirable in the future remains to be seen,” he said.
The next tour of the tunnel is Sunday. To reserve a spot, call (718) 941-3160 or visit www.brooklynrail.net. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children.